Gov. Tim Walz has announced the search for a 3rd-party consultant to examine whether the scandal-hit Department of Human Services needs to be broken up.
The DHS has been the subject of multiple controversies this year, as the Walz administration found several examples of historic missteps and overpayments that has left the department and other providers on the hook for tens of millions of dollars.
This year has also seen the sudden resignation of DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey, and an investigation into its inspector general Carolyn Ham over the handling of child care fraud, though this ultimately led to no discipline being taken.
Nonetheless, the problems uncovered by the Walz administration during the governor's first year's in charge have led to calls for the DHS to be broken up into smaller, more manageable departments.
Gov. Walz's search for an outside consultant is designed to address whether the agency needs to be restructured.
"As Governor, it is my responsibility to ensure that Minnesotans receive the services they need in an efficient, accountable manner," he said.
"As my Administration surfaces issues at the Department of Human Services that have been going on for years, we must dig deeper to find the root of these problems. That is why we need an outside expert to take an independent look at DHS and recommend whether breaking up the agency would improve efficiency, increase accountability, and better serve Minnesotans.”
The DHS is now being led by recently appointed commissioner Jodi Harpstead, who revealed her plan for the future of department earlier this month based on observations she's made during her first three months in charge.
"There is nothing more important for the Minnesota Department of Human Services than to be trustworthy for the people of Minnesota – the over 1 million people we support to live in community and all taxpayers,” she said.
"That is why we are taking action to improve that trust while ensuring DHS is helping Minnesotans live better, fuller lives across the state."
Rep. Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne), who is the GOP lead on the House Health and Human Services Finance Division, praised the decision to seek outside help, but called for the DHS to be reduced in size as well as broken up.
"We are encouraged that Gov. Walz is seeking outside expertise to evaluate the best path forward for DHS," he said. "We also hope the governor will follow-through on his support for an audit of all DHS spending.
"Any breakup or restructuring of DHS must streamline the overall size of DHS programs, rather than adding layers at new, smaller agencies so we can improve accountability and control costs for taxpayers."